Garage Door Bob and the Thirsty Thursdays

The tough guy who you see in the middle here with the studded fat bike tires for winter riding is Garage Door Bob. Aptly named because of his highly successful garage door installation and repair business – B&V Garage Doors. B for Bob and V for his lovely wife Vicky. To say that Bob is an avid mountain biker would be a bit of an understatement looking at his own garage filled with bikes, wheel sets, and parts. Bob loves to mountain bike and loves it all year long. The amazing thing is that Bob will ride on 90 + degree, high humidity days after putting in a full days work installing or repairing garage doors. He will do the same in raging snowstorms on icy trails. But what makes Bob and his wife Vicky really special is his ability to round up fellow riders weekly with a text that simply says” Thirsty Thursday- 5:45- Devil’s Elbow Grove- no replies. Just show up or don’t show up- don’t care.” Really a misnomer because Bob does care. He just doesn’t want all the text chatter all day while he is working. LOL!!!

Thirsty Thursday is a tradition that was started by Bob back in the day and has continued along with other weekly rides for our eclectic group of mountain bike riders. There are the tough guys up front who push the pace and then the stragglers who keep the group in sight to the best of their abilities. The tough guys wait at the turns to make sure everybody is along for the ride as it is a no drop ride. But for the most part, all the riders are able to at least keep up and Bob is happy with his weekly band of followers on the trails. We are squeezed a little tight here for social distance but the picture was worth it showing the weekly group and some additions and subtractions as the weeks go by, all year long. But as much as everybody likes the ride, the real thing that people look forward to is the post ride at the grove with beers, snacks, and food graciously provided by Bob and Vicki and Tina and the Shark. Another fun couple who like to contribute to the camaraderie. As long as I have know GDB, he has always brought snacks, beers and been extremely generous at the post- ride festivities- socially distanced of course, and making sure that everybody has a good time. There is something to be said for the post- ride. Sitting in your chair, sipping a beverage, and reminiscing about the crazy stuff that happened. Mountain biking is an accident waiting to happen sometimes. The conversation also turns to what we all will do on future rides and if there are any trips planned. These post ride festivities remind me of apres-ski in the winter around a fire talking basically about the same thing. What happened, what was funny, what do we do next?

Bob and Vicki, Shark and Tina fuel this weekly gathering in more ways than one. And in these days of Zoom, Teams, social isolation, masks, and other Covid related precautions, it is important to somehow be able to get together with your friends in some outdoor activity and have that one on one conversation with a live person. GDB makes it happen each week and although he says he doesn’t care who shows up, he is the first guy to encourage you to ride the whole loop and stay with the group no matter what. He feeds you, he inspires you, he pushes you and he motivates you. Something we all need at least once a week.

Don’t we all need a Garage Door Bob to keep us motivated through these strange social times? Don’t we need more than Zoom, Teams and other forms of communication that really don’t cut it for interaction? Don’t we need that time to sit back and enjoy the remnants of the evening and the cool temperatures seeing the smiles on everyone’s post ride faces? Socially distanced of course. Sure we do. We all need people like GDB and his Thirsty Thursdays. Thanks for reading.

” People- people who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.”
– Barbara Streisand – ” Funny Girl”.

Out of This World.

A long time ago, my dad bought me an army surplus tent and I slept a lot of nights outdoors behind my house. It was really the beginning of my fascination for the universe and the solar system that is highly visible on a clear night. Many nights I looked up and thought how small we are in the grand scheme of things seeing that what I saw was a fraction of the Milky Way, which is a fraction of the Galaxy, which is a fraction of the Universe. I could not even contemplate but was highly satisfied with what I saw. There is something about the smell of the night air when you are awake at 3:00 AM and you look up in the stillness and see the absolute beauty of the sky. God’s amazing celestial creation. Years later in my dome tent, during many backpacking trips, I looked up from my sleeping bag, through the ceiling screen, and had the same feelings that I had as a kid in my backyard, thanks to my dad and his creative entertainment for Molly and me.

Fast forward, I bought myself a telescope. It was so interesting to see the craters of the moon, the moons around Jupiter and the ring around Saturn. Of course, aside from our moon, the details are not as defined as a professional telescope, but for me, it was pretty cool to zone in on it and see it “live.” I remember the first night I was up in the field behind our old house and called my son to come up and see it. He said, ” Dad- I can see it 50 times better on the Internet.” Millenials! Oh well, my wife came up and said, ” Well- that is nice dear. I am glad you are enjoying it.” Always the supportive wife even though it was not her thing.

Eventually, I bought a pair of high powered binoculars and a tripod. I really went to town then, exploring with the Sky Walk app on my phone to look up new planets and stars and see the constellations. The binoculars and tripod are a little more mobile than the telescope and easier to use. Lately, these clear nights this summer have been spectacular viewing. Once again, I tested my wife’s patience the other night looking for the Comet Neowise. I had the poor thing sitting in a field getting bit by insects waiting for the sunset and looking right under the Big Dipper in the northern sky. No dice initially until I moved her up to the golf course where she patiently waited for me as I made my way to a really dark place and finally saw a small version of what I had seen by the professional photographers on the Internet. Again, not real clear but I felt like I had hit my target for the night. Again, my patient wife said, ” I am so happy for you dear.” After all these years she is still supportive of my quest to see what is in the sky. Well, it won’t be around for another 6800 years so I figured I better see it now. LOL!!

Logging on the ” Spot the Station” and entering my email, I get notices from NASA when the Space Station is overhead. Even thought I can’t pick it up too well with my binoculars because of the speed at which it moves, it is still the brightest thing in the sky and travels at amazing velocity. My neighbors all get a kick out of me, out in the street at night with the binoculars and I give them all a view. And again, they kind of give me a ” well, that’s nice Pat. Glad you are enjoying it.” Although a lot of them are now watching and waiting for the Space Station. I kind of got them hooked.

The other day, I watched the astronauts installing the high definition camera on the outside of the Space Shuttle and thought to myself how cool it would be to see the earth from their perspective. Azure blue oceans, puffy white clouds and the continents rotating in their view so clearly. I thought, what they see is so pristine. They don’t see the conflict, the division, the problems that we are faced with globally in today’s world. They just see the creation in its finest position like a fine painting on a celestial easel. They are “out of this world” for a little while and doing great work high above the earth. Like the little boy in the tent so many years ago, I am still fascinated by what I see in the sky. A great hobby recommendation for all of you. Especially in this time of social distance. Buy a pair of binoculars from Celestron and begin exploring the galaxy. It gives you some great perspective on how small we really are. Thanks for reading.

The Operative Word is “Yes”

This photo was taken over the weekend up at McConnel’s Mills State Park here in Western Pa. Janet and I were hiking and I was experimenting with an app on the I-Phone called Pro HDRX. Pretty cool playing with that and also having an opportunity to spend some quality time with my wife on the trails. Janet and I are ” empty nesters” for the first time in a long time, and trying to be as active as we can in the current world circumstances. For us lately, the operative word has been “yes.” I participate in two major activities with friends but it has been important for me to spend time with Janet and get her more into the great outdoors than she already is, and doing some of the things that I have enjoyed for many years. She jokes that I have had a whole separate life when we talk about my activities over the years and the pre-Janet world. But now, we are in a situation where we can enjoy the time, activities and places together.

I must commend many of my friends who find themselves in the same situation and it has been fun to get together with them because we share the same thoughts about the empty nest and what that entails. The gift of time has enabled us to participate in hiking, cycling,swimming,shooting, skiing and snowshoeing. My wife and I laugh when I refer to myself as the “human crowbar.” I sometimes have to crowbar Janet out of her comfort zone and pry open that door of complacency and comfort. But once she is out the door and participating, she is happy and enjoying the many activities that we can do together. I am a Type A personality and Jan will never be in that mold, but that is why we do so well together. She tempers my enthusiasm where needed and I get her out the door enjoying things that she might not do on her own.

The interesting thing is that we have a lot of time to talk. That hasn’t been the case in many years because we were always on the go with activities with our son Jack as he was growing up. Not unlike a lot of couples. Games, practices, school, and also in the more recent years caring for her ailing parents and the constraints that are associated with that. We have no regrets but we are really enjoying the time together now that we have not had in a long time. We try to be safe in this Covid-19 world. We wear our masks, wash our hands frequently and respect others on the trails and other outdoor venues. But at some point, we will all have to accept some level of risk to be active. That is still being sorted out nationally and also in our own sphere of influence. But we persevere and try to get that fresh air that is sorely needed during this strange time.

Finally, we discuss why we feel the need to be active and go places. Is it just to check the box and say we have been there and done that? Is it because we want to post it on Facebook, or do we really like to participate because of the true gratification of being outdoors and being together. We both think it is the latter and when you see gorgeous scenery even right in your backyard, you appreciate the opportunity. Time spent together is priceless and whether you have a spouse, significant other, friend, or children, the gift of time is precious. The outdoors presents many opportunities to bond in discussion as well as a mutual appreciation of God’s great creation. We are all living in uncertain times and it is important to make the best of these times together. “Yes” is the operative word to opportunity and kindness goes hand in hand with that. Thanks for reading.

Be a follower and enter your name in the box to the left of the post or at the bottom of your I-Phone. Thanks .

Uncle Bob

Uncle Bob Smith was my dad’s best friend. They first met when they lived at the Perry Manor Apartments in the same building as my parents. As life moved on, Karen, Bobby and Cindy Smith became friends with my sister Molly and me and we all went on trips together and had great times at each others homes over all the years. Even though they were not blood relatives, we called them Uncle Bob and Aunt Jean because we all were so close. Basically like family. Karen, Bobby and Cindy were our cousins. Plain and simple.

Uncle Bob was raised by his mother in Lawrenceville because his dad died early. As a city fireman, Uncle Bob’s dad had a hazardous job and one day he fell into an oil tank which was on fire and died leaving his young wife behind, who was pregnant with my Uncle Bob. Growing up in the depression and post depression was not easy for a mother raising a son alone and Uncle Bob spent a lot of time at the local Catholic Church which provided needed resources for a young guy growing up in a tough neighborhood under dire circumstances. Father Jack McDowell took my Uncle Bob under his wing and was, for all intents and purposes, his surrogate father allowing him to work around the church and helping with neighborhood missions directed by Father Jack. Uncle Bob played a lot of baseball in the neighborhood and around Pittsburgh, and eventually became good enough to be drafted by the Chicago Cubs farm organization. But instead of the path to professional baseball, Uncle Bob joined the Navy to better provide for his mother financially and found himself on the USS Copahee, an aircraft carrier deployed to the Philippines and Japan.

Fast forward- I first got to know what a character Uncle Bob was when I asked him to be my sponsor for my confirmation at St. Sebastian’s Parish. The nuns had us all in line and glared at us if any one of us made a move that would somehow ruin the ceremony. As we walked down the aisle, Uncle Bob was cracking jokes to me and I tried desperately not to laugh. When we approached the Bishop, it was a silent, reverent moment until Uncle Bob blurted out” Hey Jack- How the hell are ya?” To which Bishop McDowell, the former Father McDowell from Lawrenceville responded,” Bob Smith you old rascal – what brings you here?” His miter( the bishop’s pointy hat), almost fell off his head as the two of them shared a laugh and the nuns were horrified. I knew how cool Uncle Bob was that day and he became a legend among all my friends from grade school.

Over the years growing up, I shared a lot of laughs with Uncle Bob. His irreverent humor was so funny to me and he and I became close and saw each other a lot in those days. He was truly an uncle in every form of the word and was a mentor to me on how to not take life so seriously.

I attended Uncle Bob’s military funeral this past week at the Cemetery of the Alleghenies. He was 94 and was the last of my dad’s friends to leave this earth. The military service was so moving and the Navy personnel along with some veterans from the local VFW presided.   The flag ceremony along with the 21 gun salute and “Taps” brought tears to my eyes. The Navy personnel presented the flag to Uncle Bob’s daughter Karen, and there was not a dry eye in that chapel. Three shell casings are placed in the flag representing Duty, Honor, Country. All befitting my Uncle Bob who served selflessly in a war far from his home. The World War II guys are leaving fast and soon there will be no veterans left from that war. As I left the ceremony I thought a lot about Uncle Bob and his life in Lawrenceville, and his service to his country. People like him were truly from the greatest generation and I also thought about what Uncle Bob would have said about the current situation in our country. I am sure he would have laughed it off and called a lot of the anarchists a few rude names but would understand that a lot of them have no idea of what it takes to be in the war time military. Education and understanding will do a lot to heal things and Uncle Bob got his education in the streets and hard knocks of life. We all should be so fortunate to have an Uncle Bob who made the best of his situation, helped his neighbors and friends, loved his mother, wife and family, and served his country. Rest in peace Uncle Bob and I will see you on the other side someday. Thanks for reading.

Covid Fitness

Gasping for breath up a steep climb recently on the mountain bike with my riding friends, I thought to myself, ” Where is the race?” ” Nobody is going to the Olympics – why are we racing on this ride?” Then it occurred to me that my group and a lot of other groups of cyclists, runners, and other fitness enthusiasts are in really great shape. People are not traveling for work, or pleasure just yet and a lot of folks have a lot of free time to get their work done at home and then go ride, run, walk, hike or do some other form of exercise. I am calling it Covid Fitness and it is a national phenomena.

I recently went into my local bike shop, Dirty Harry’s, in Verona,Pa and their business is booming. Barry Jeffries, the owner, told me that they have 350 bikes on back order and their repair business is off the charts. Barry, Scott, Brocc and the boys will have a record year in sales and service because a lot of people are turning back to cycling as a recreational activity during this pandemic. The health clubs are not fully operational yet and people need to get out. What better way to do it than on a bicycle? As the bikes roll in the door from the manufacturers, the boys at Dirty Harry’s build them up as fast as possible and out the door they go. Sold!!! All kinds of bikes. High end mountain and road bikes, E-Bikes, kids bikes, commuter bikes, you name it. They are selling like a fish sandwich in Lent. The Peleton home cycling equipment is back ordered by at least 6 months and that is the case with a lot of sports equipment providers. Most outdoor equipment manufacturers have had a strain on supply because of the surge in purchases due to the Covid 19 crisis. Even spare parts are being used to make new equipment because supply of parts is also in great demand. A good news bad news scenario for the sporting equipment industry in that record sales are being offset in a way by a strain in supply. They have the customers, many new to the sport, but are having a hard time keeping up with demand.

So back to my group. We have guys and gals who travel for work, guys and gals who are retired, and many working from home. These folks have always been active but recently, they probably have ridden mountain bikes and road bikes more than they ever have in recent years because the distractions have been put aside due to this pandemic. I have complimented a lot of cycling friends on their fitness and their response has been, ” Hey Pat- I don’t have much more to do.” ” We have not been able to go to work at the office, or sit and socialize in a restaurant, or go to a movie or concert, so really – outside of exercise, what do we have to do besides work at home and read a book?”

The end result is that a lot of us are in the best shape we have been in for many a year and my group keeps pushing, pushing, pushing every week on scheduled rides in various venues around our area of the country. The CDC says nothing better to combat this virus than boosting the immune system with sunshine and outdoor exercise. The texts and emails buzz every week with the proposed riding schedules and the good thing is that at least we are not sitting around with nothing to do. My wife Janet is in on the act too with an increase on her walking with her friends, cycling with me on the rails to trails on Sundays or hiking locally or in the mountains. We are making the use of time seeing that for the first time in many years, we are ” empty nesters” and can take advantage of time together.

So, again, the pandemic has caused a lot of disruption to our lives as well as to lives all around the world. It has caused a lot of us to reflect on what is really important in life and how we have taken things for granted. This too shall pass and the world will learn to live with these kinds of viruses and change our daily habits on how to deal with them. But in the meantime, there have been some good things that have come out of this time and the great outdoors has been calling to a lot of us. Enjoy the sunshine and these active summer days and evenings. Thanks for reading.

“If You Don’t Know Where You Have Been, You Can’t Know Where You Are Going”

I have always been a history buff, especially interested in the foundation of the country. My first interest was piqued when my folks took me to Fort Ligonier. I remember the day because I had a plaid sport coat on with a bow tie when we visited because we came right from church. In those days, you got dressed up for church and when I got to the famous French and Indian War fort, my dad bought me a tri- cornered hat and I was so proud wearing it around. I learned about the conflict and saw many relics of the period which made history come alive for me as a young lad.

Fast forward, my grandparents knowing my interest, took me to Gettysburg to get another take on local history. Again, I was enthralled with the Civil War conflict and again I got a hat- a Union officer’s hat- which again, I wore everywhere. I vividly remember the tour we took and the views from Little Roundtop, and Big Roundtop and the strategy of the Union and Confederate forces was explained in great detail. Much of it was lost on me until many later visits to the battlefield and an increased understanding of the conflict and the importance of the Gettysburg Address and the resultant emancipation proclamation.

In an effort to pass this on to my son Jack, my wife and I made it a point to take him not only to Gettysburg and Ft. Ligonier, but also to Williamsburg and eventually Washington DC. As a young kid, he complained a little about the mid summer heat in Williamsburg, as I explained to him the significance of the House of Burgess and the freedom speeches of Patrick Henry. It was a little lost on him but I continued during his formative years to explain what the wars were and why they were significant.   You see, where we live in Western Pennsylvania, history is alive everywhere you look. From the blockhouse at Ft. Pitt at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers, to Forts Ligonier and Necessity just east of us and further east- the famous battlefields of the Revolutionary and Civil War. We visited all of them and history came alive for Jack and also my wife who was forced into learning about American history because of her marriage to me. LOL!! I can remember the guide putting them to sleep after a 3 hour tour in Gettysburg driving my car, and also me putting them to sleep on visits to significant sites rambling on to them about the particulars of the places we were about to visit.

The final visit with Jack and Janet before he was off and on his way in life, was during a college tour in Lynchburg, Virginia. I took them to Appomattox Courthouse where the armistice was signed by U.S. Grant and Robert E. Lee ending the Civil War. We toured the quiet little farm house where the two famous generals met to effectively end the war on paper. Quiet, peaceful, and beautiful, the park is remarkably well preserved. I made it a point to venture out back to the slaves quarters to specifically show Jack the difference in living between the main house and the stark quarters where black slaves were housed to serve the owners of the farm at the time. When you read about the history of slavery on those walls, you get an understanding of the sadness that prevailed in those quarters and the atrocity of treating people differently because of the color of their skin. This was not lost on Jack because he was old enough to appreciate it. I explained to Jack and to Janet that Robert E. Lee went on to found Washington and Lee University whose founding precepts were to foster unity among the divided country. Lee was a reluctant warrior as a West Point graduate , and had no choice but to side with his home state of Virginia. But in later years, he did a lot to foster unity which he is not credited for in many accounts. Grant was the executor of Lincoln’s emancipation and, as President, he was intimately involved in crushing any further insurrection in the south and stopped continuing atrocities on the recently emancipated black citizens by the Ku Klux Klan. U.S. Grant is a hero to the black cause in America not only as a general in the Civil War but as President. Again, not always given the credit he deserves. Why the vandals tore his statue down recently in San Francisco is a mystery to me other than writing it off to random violence or people who don’t know the history of the man.

I think history is important. And it can’t be whitewashed. We have to teach our young people the good and the bad of American history so that we can learn of our mistakes and not repeat them. I can see the argument for not memorializing certain combatants in unrelated places but the battle fields and museums must be preserved to be a teaching vehicle for generations to come. Erasing history in those venues does a disservice to understanding where we have been so that we can know where we are going. The Jewish nation is a good example by their preservation of the concentration camps of World War II. When you visit Dachau, or Auschwitz, you understand the inhumane treatment of German and Polish Jews, and see first hand the evil of the Third Reich. That history should never be repeated and the preservation of those sites is essential to an understanding not only of Jewish culture but German history as well- good or bad.

I read a lot about history and am happy that I was able to at least pass some of that interest on to my wife as well as to my son. This is a good book by the way for anyone interested. I am hoping he will take the baton from me and perhaps make history come alive for his children someday. I would be happy to tag along. Maybe with a tri-cornered hat much to the horror of my prospective grandchildren in the future. LOL. Thanks for reading.

The “B” Team Bringing Their “A” Game

A little while back, I was on a rather spirited mountain bike ride up at Laurel Mountain with some pretty strong riders. Among them was my friend Steve Gurtner, who is a strong rider in his own right. But that day, he looked at me and said, ” Pat- we are the ” B” team bringing our “A” game. I laughed out loud and will always remember that line because it fits my persona to a “T.” In all honesty in all of my cycling over the years, I have always ridden with stronger, more talented riders and always felt like I was that “B” team constantly having to bring my “A” game in order to keep up. Take my early days in road cycling with the ACA.( Allegheny Cycling Association). I had the good fortune of riding on the road with some pretty talented guys who took the time to bring us “B” team guys into the fold. People like Mac Martin- a national class rider who took us out of our comfort zone and gave us the finer points of road racing on training rides. I can remember being in our local criteriums when they would put the “B” group in with the “A” group and we had people like Mac, and Matt Eaton, and the Chew brothers who would lap us but help us in the group with tips and suggestions not only to help us, but to improve their place in the group. Things like ” bridge that gap, Pat, so I can get up there.” I definitely had to bring my A game in those races in order not to jeopardize my participation. These guys were national champions who were kind enough to give us tips and help us in a race situation. But we had to dig deep and bring that “A” game. They would roar by us but help us along the way.

Moving ahead to mountain biking. I rode with the Greenlee’s Mountain Bike team back in the day and was coached by Chuck Greenlee, the owner of the shop, and head honcho of the group. I would go on their training rides with the expert riders who were nice enough to wait for me at the corners. But I had to step it up again in order to participate. I was no expert rider like those guys, but if I wanted to improve, I had to dig deep and remember being totally exhausted after all those rides on week nights. It all helped at race time but still, I was bringing the” A” game because I had to.

My Tuesday night rides, which were famous for bringing riders of all abilities to ride our local park, were eventually taken over by the expert riders who used my ride as a training ride. Eventually, the only way I could keep up was to take short cuts. Not quite bringing the” A” game but a tactic that I still use today. I still often ride with riders who are younger, stronger, more talented than me and I need to bring that” A” game week in and week out in order to participate. I remember riding with Scot Nicol, the founder of Ibis Bicycles, who is my age. I asked him, ” How long do you think we can ride like this Scot – at our age?” His response which I have recounted many times was,” Don’t even think about it, Pat.” ” Just keep riding.” I suppose he is right. I want to do this cycling thing as long as I can and if I have to be pushed by a talented group, so be it. I will be back out in Bend, Oregon in a few weeks visiting Jeff and Julie Chetlin, Tim and Barb Girone, and their posse of younger, talented riders. So hopefully, again, I won’t think about it and hope to hang on.

Finally- when I thought about this post, and the meaning of that great quote by Steve Gurtner, I also thought about it in general terms. Don’t we all have to bring our “A” game to the game of life? Sometimes we have to dig deep to be kind, considerate, generous, courteous, in these times of uncertainty? Don’t we have to bring that “A” game even when we are tired and don’t think we can keep up? If we do dig deep, it not only benefits us, but also those around us to whom we show mercy and kindness even in the midst of fatigue or despondency. Yes, most of us are the “B ” team, but if we can bring that “A” game as often as we can, life will improve in just a small way. We might not be national class and can’t change the world, but we can certainly “bring it” and help out one individual, one life, one neighborhood at a time. Thanks for reading.

ACA photo courtesy of Eric Durfee. Another “A” guy in many ways.

Harder Than it Looks.

Janet and I had a nice bicycle ride this weekend up at Lake Arthur. As we sat on a bench and looked at the nice scene you see above, we admired the skill of the sailors who were piloting their sailboats, catamarans, and wind surfers. We observed some folks attempting to wind surf who had elementary skills and after a while, we realized that wind surfing is harder than it looks. Probably not unlike a lot of things with a steep learning curve until you get the hang of it. As my mind drifted in the hot sun and pleasant scenery, I went back to my earlier adventures in life, trying to pilot water craft. Not too successful.

Take whitewater rafting. Now I had always gone on whitewater rafting trips on the Yough and Gauley Rivers around here, but always had been a passenger and did what the guide told us to do. Kind of fun but basically along for the ride. One day, my father in law thought it would be a good idea to do the Youghiogheny River with my mother in law and my wife. He ended up in a raft with some other guys and I had my own raft with my mother in law and Janet. They looked at me skeptically when I said I knew what I was doing and we pushed off and paddled downstream with a look of excitement and wonder as the whitecaps began to lap up against the raft. We were doing fine until we came to the famous Dimple Rock which has been the demise of many canoes and water craft with a tough eddy current up against the rock and a designated route around it outlined by the outfitters at the beginning of the trip. I saw a bent canoe hanging from the rocks on the left bank and knew that we were approaching the challenge. I told my mother in law and my wife to keep paddling and I would try to steer us in the recommended direction of the current. Unfortunately, we zigged where we should have zagged and somehow I managed to get the raft out of the current and basically in the direction we wanted to go. And then the unthinkable for my MIL and my wife. I flipped out of the back of the raft and was on my back floating down “Swimmers Rapids” trying to hail them down. My wife apparently kept paddling with my MIL and then after a while of no response to questions like ” where do we go now?”, they realized that I was not in the raft. Janet screamed at her mom and said, ” He’s not here.” To which the MIL responded” Oh get out, you don’t know what you are talking about.” She then looked back and the two ladies were on their own.

After a little while, I managed to float alongside the raft and after a barrage of questions, I said, ” I will see you in a mile at the end of these rapids.” I have no problem swimming but piloting a craft is not my strong suit. We all had a laugh about that one for years.

Another foray in into the world of water craft was when I decided one year that I would like to take up kayaking on the Yough. I took a continuing education class at Pitt with outings in a swimming pool trying to roll the kayak without getting out. A necessary skill when actually kayaking on a river or stream. I never was good at that and on the field trip to the Yough as our final outing, I put on a rain suit to try to keep myself dry. Little did I know that was a worthless endeavor seeing that I was out of the kayak more than I was in it and to make matters worse, the outing was in October and it was snowing on the river. Cold is not the word for it. Something much worse, and I was never so glad to rid myself of that kayak and tell myself that the idea of being a river rat or a granola crunching paddler hanging out in Ohiopyle, Pa was not my fate. My old ski buddy, Mark Singleton, who is now the Executive Director of American Whitewater, would not be proud of me and maybe welcome me back on the river for some lessons and maybe some redemption. But any trip to North Carolina to visit him would be on two knobby tires on trails and not on the river rapids of the south.

I had a few close calls on the water that were not my fault. One was on a boat offshore at Martha’s Vineyard where a friend of my in-laws, piloting the boat, went down into the hold to get some nautical maps I believe, and we were drifting precariously close to a large buoy. I was just about to grab the wheel when the guy came up, screamed, ” Holy S@#$”, and then just avoided what would have been a bad collision seeing that the base of the buoy was made of concrete. I can just see it now, all of us hanging on the buoy waiting for the Coast Guard as the boat would have surely sunk. The second was on the river here on a party boat with a bunch of ex football players. The weight in that boat had us very close to the water surface and I looked at my one friend and said, ” make sure you have your wallet and car keys within reach because when this thing sinks, we need to be ready to swim to shore and have our belongings” Fortunately, we were able to get off the boat before a collision with another boat and a close call with the walls of a lock on the river.

My mind drifted back as Janet said, ” time to go.” As we mounted our bikes, I took a final look at the sailboats, wind surfers, and other pilots of the water and said to myself, ” that is not for me, but it is nice to watch.” I will be a spectator for sure. Thanks for reading but don’t let me dismay you. If you want to try something new, go for it. It would be cool to know how to do it.

“Stuff” My Folks Used to Say.

My wife Janet and I had a good laugh the other day when I said something that my dad used to say. I mean, some of that stuff is drilled into my psyche and I say some things where one would say……”Whaaaaaaaat?” Things like, ” that one’s got a rear end like a 40 dollar cow.” Whaaaaaaat?? Or maybe ” look at that one ahead, looks like two cats fighting in a sack.” Whaaaat????? My mom used to say things like, ” that one looks like he fell out of a nest?” Or”he looks like Willy Lump Lump.” Say whaaaaaat??? Or maybe the classic, ” I wouldn’t know him from a cake of soap.” Where did they they get these sayings.

My grandmother had some good ones too. Like when you invited someone to something and they politely refused- much to your delight. Her line was ” an invitation is as good as an acceptance.” Kind of indicating that you went out of your way to invite them even though you really didn’t want to and you got off the hook because they said “no.” LOL!! No chance at getting invited again. Or when she didn’t like someone or had a spat with them, she looked at me and said, ” I rubbed her out.” Meaning no way that person was getting back into my grandma’s life again. Just rubbed out. LOL!!! My grandfather would pass gas and look at me and say, ” well, there goes the Sputnik.” You have to go back a few years to relate to the Soviet satellite.

I was riding my bike in Ireland one time and came upon a farmer with his dairy herd. They were stopped in the middle of the road and one of the cows started to relieve himself and it was like a fire hose. I had to move back so I would not get splashed. I then knew what my dad meant when he said, ” It is raining like a cow peeing on a flat rock.” Pretty hard rain. LOL!!!

Then there was the historical “stuff” that my mom used to say. Things like ” that guy is as cheap as Peter Liebach” Never knew what that meant until I read a biography of the Rooney family here in Pittsburgh and Art Rooney referred to Peter Liebach. The guy was known on the North Side for being cheap and turns out that when he passed, they found a bunch of coffee cans buried in his yard with cash in them. Lots of cash. A real person on the North Side of Pittsburgh back in the day.

Weather would bring out some of the good “stuff”. My dad would say, “wow- it is cold outside.” How cold is it dad? ” It is as cold as a well diggers a#$.” Or “bring in the brass monkeys” referring to the fact that the brass monkeys(door walkway ornaments) would freeze their private parts off in this cold.” Whaaaaaat? Or ” how hot is it dad?” ” It is so hot you could fry an egg on your shoes.”

If you looked disheveled before going out the door, my dad would say” get back in here, you look like a dog’s breakfast.” Or ” you look like a sack tied in the middle.” WTH????? The other classic was when he was angry with me he would say, ” you’ve got your head up your a#$ and locked.” LOL!!!

There are so many funny things that I remember that I catch myself saying. Like ” here we go, off like a herd of turtles.” Or ” that one was four sheets to the wind last night.” Or, ” that one is as cheap as hen poop.” Well now, that is cheap!!! ” I have to go so bad, my eyeballs are floating.” My dad had a million of them and I say them sometimes because they just run through my brain and out of my mouth. Another quotable one was , ” work is the curse of the leisure class.” Not sure if my dad could take credit for that one but he used it a lot.

My dad was no fan of Roberto Clemente because he didn’t like the basket catches that the Great One made. He would look at me and say,” you need to put some mustard on that guy.” Or if I would ever catch a ball like that, he said laughingly that he would ” tan my hide.” LOL!!

Who ever called a couch a davenport? Or when my dad would say, ” you mind Joe Brown – used to live up in the valley?” I reminded him that I did not “mind” or know Joe because that was back in my dad’s Bellevue days and I was not around then. How about ” that one is as useless as teets on a bull.” Or, ” I need that like I need a second navel.” Millions of them I swear. And I am plagued with them in my speech as I see things that trigger these inane responses. I am sure you all can add to this list especially if you are older. The “stuff” your folks used to say just drives you crazy as it comes out of your mouth, and your spouse, kid, or friend, says…………..whaaaaaaat???? Thanks for reading. Thought you could use a Covid sequestered laugh today.

Ride to Ride Another Day

You know, as the 65 year old kid ages, I think about a lot of variables that come into play while pursuing the activities we like. When you think about it, staying in shape, exercising, and getting fresh air and sunshine, especially in these days of quarantine and gradual social interaction, is key to your sanity and well being. One of the things we don’t want is to get hurt in the process.

Part of the thrill of mountain biking and skiing, for instance, is the ability to ride over obstacles and pick lines that are challenging but all within reason. Thus my saying of “ride to ride another day.” Mountain biking is a sport where you do have to keep your wits about you to successfully navigate the obstacles on the trail and concentration is key,looking ahead and not at your front wheel. Kind of like skiing in a way where you are looking down the hill and not at your tips. Looking ahead gives you better reaction time and that is compromised when you narrow the visual field. For me though, concentrating and knowing when to “send it” or not, is really important as an older rider. I don’t want to get hurt. I want to ride for exercise and not anything else. I also don’t feel a need anymore to stress myself all the time. Once in a while to test your fitness and see if you can still hang is fine. But for the most part, I want to enjoy my ride and not turn it into a death march.

One of the things that has been happening lately in my group or groups has been injuries. My one friend says he gets injured when he is tired from consecutive days of hard riding and his skills are compromised because of the fatigue. Another friend gets hurt because he is thinking about other things and not concentrating on the task at hand. Both of these guys are really good riders but are willing to take chances that I am not willing to take. Again, I ride to ride another day. I don’t want to spend my time recovering from injury. I would rather ride or ski. I tend to ski faster and better than I ride and I always make it a habit to concentrate on every turn so that I don’t catch an edge.I try to make each run a series of good turns instead of a series of high speed linked recoveries. Again, ski to ski another day. Which brings me to the point. None of us are competing in the World Cup so why not enjoy the ride instead of putting yourself in a position of potential carnage? Especially as you age. Recovery is not that easy for warriors in their 50s and 60s like my groups. I always say mountain biking is an accident waiting to happen unless you approach it conservatively. Now, there are always the cases where things happen, but you can be in some semblance of control if “you know your limitations.”

I guess I think about these things and feel a need to write down my thoughts, especially now with the need for all of us to get out and get some sunshine while we wait for things to open up safely. We all are going to have to assume some level of risk in this post Covid world if we want to live our lives to the fullest. Can’t live in a bubble forever. Be smart but live fully. But when you do, remember to “ride to ride another day.” That goes for a lot of things, not just mountain biking or skiing. Then you can drink your post ride/apres ski beer in one piece and say, ” the older I get the better I was.” Thanks for reading. Be a follower. Enter you email to the left and get a once a week post from the 65 year old kid.